The question has surfaced again in the middle of the Covid 19 pandemic. It was heard during the 2003 SARS epidemic, the 2004 tsunami, and a number of earthquakes which have resulted in significant loss of life and suffering.
Is this God’s judgment?
Firstly, the point must be made that this question should only bother theists, i.e. those who believe in God. For the atheist, it really should not matter at all. If this question (or answer) causes an atheist to call Christians unloving or be “angry” at God, or at a divine person they do not believe exists, then it would really make no sense.
For those who believe in God, then it is a legitimate question to ask. And therefore, for a Christian, what does the Bible tell us about times like this. When there is a massive loss of life, and suffering on a large scale.
When society has marginalised God, what is the Christian answer to the question: Is this pandemic God’s judgment on mankind?
I believe we should first define what we mean by judgment. In the Bible, there are different definitions of aspects of God’s “judgment”.
God, our Father, has indeed dealt out punitive type judgment in the past on a rebellious world (the Flood – Gen 6:11-13). He has promised not to do that again (Gen 7:21-22). As we now live in the new covenant, the age of grace, judgment is revealed and happens in a different way. The way of a Father permitting his rebellious son to find his own way.
An analogy may help.
Imagine a parent, say a loving father, brings up his son with love and care in his home. As would be expected there are expectations and rules for the home which the son is expected to follow. Boundaries set up by the father as he is the authority in the home.
The boy begins to reject some of these rules and stretches the boundaries as he grows up. In time at age 16, he exerts his autonomy. He wants to do his own thing. His father feels that the path the son has chosen is a mistake and warns him, repeatedly. The son still decides and insists that he will live his own life, away from the protection of the father, and making up his own rules of life.
The father now makes a “judgment”.
He allows his son to leave his protection of his home. The son can fend for himself since he wants autonomy. Secondly, the father also makes the judgment that the son will have to face any consequences on his own. He cannot rely on his father, as per his choice. But the loving father keeps the door open. Unless the son repents, seeks his father’s help, submits to his authority, and resumes living under his protection, his father will leave him to his own devices,
The Bible uses the metaphor of a “Father” when referring to God. Jesus taught us to pray “Our Father, who art in heaven”. To the Christian, our Father in heaven is our creator, sustainer and provider. Therefore, He has all authority over His creation. Unlike an earthly father, God our Father is perfect in all his ways. God has given us His boundaries to live within his kingdom. If we choose to go our own way, he allows us to do so, to leave his protection. He leaves us to our own devices.
The Bible says the world is in a fallen state due to sin. Natural disasters are a consequence of this fallen world. The devil is also active in thwarting God, and wants to turn God’s children away, to seek to live independently of God.
Do we not see how many Christians claim to believe in Jesus, but the presentation of their life is the life of an atheist? A practical Christian atheist is one who claims to be Christian but lives as if God does not exist. He has left his Father’s home and running to a world hostile to God.
And there we have it. God’s judgment is not that he rains fire and brimstone on us. He allows us to follow our own path and to reap the consequences of what we sow. Many catastrophes are not of man’s making. But when catastrophes like the pandemic strike, since we have left God out of the equation, He will stay out and let us face the consequences on our own. Unless we turn back to Him.
Let us return to God
As Christians, a pandemic like this, or any catastrophe, for that matter, should point us back to God.
- We should revaluate how we are living.
- Are we going to church Sunday but living as if He did not exist during the rest of the week?
- Do we pray, read His Word (Bible) and seek to obey His will?
The majority of Canadians, Americans, Europeans and the world has basically forsaken God and live as if God does not exist. Human institutions have been shown to be inadequate to deal with the pandemic. Why? Because such issues are beyond human ability to handle. We are fragile. A microscopic entity like a virus can kill us, even as we boast increased medical technology.
Christians are called to live our lives in God’s will. Since the majority of the world now lives outside God’s will, it can be a difficult task. But we are called to pray, hear from God through His word, and bey. “Trust and obey, for there is no other way” goes the hymn by John Sammis.
Eternal perspective to temporal catastrophes
The most important point is the Christian knows that this world is not our home. Our true home is eternal. We have an eternal hope. This is a reminder to comfortable, indifferent or lackadaisical Christians. It is a call to those who do not know Jesus.
The Bible says that the eternal kingdom of God is our home. “For we are aliens and pilgrims before You, As were all our fathers; Our days on earth are as a shadow, And without hope” (1 Chronicles 29:15). There will be no more pain or death (Revelation 21:4). We do not have to worry about sickness and catastrophes in our eternal home.
The way to this eternal hope is through Jesus Christ. Like the boy in the analogy above, we have to come back to the Father’ house.
- When our relationship with God was broken, He sent Jesus to show the way back to Him.
- Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
- Jesus died on the Cross to pay the penalty for our sins.
- By repenting and accepting Jesus, we become the adopted sons of God, and a place in his Father’s home.
As the hymnwriter Elvina Hall put it “Jesus paid it all, and all to Him I owe”.
In the light of eternity, we realise our temporal life is fragile. But in Jesus, we have assurance that our life, our individuality, our personhood, will live eternally.
The call to those who believe in Jesus in this temporary place that we live in is to humble ourselves and pray. And share the good news of an eternal home with our Father in heaven with those who would be open to hearing the gospel.
Please contact us if God is speaking to you today about repentance and believing in Jesus for salvation.
Dr Joshua Thambiraj accepted Jesus as Saviour in medical school. He has a passion for preaching and teaching, and to share God’s word with those who do not know Christ. He holds a postgraduate theology degree and was ordained in 2002 and consecrated bishop in 2009. He blogs at the Sword and Scalpel Reflections.